Fishing Lines - Ice fishing season is here at last
Every year the start to the ice season is a little unique. This year we have had a number of warm days and nights mixed in with our cold ice making weather.
Last weekend was the real kickoff to the ice season with numbers of anglers getting out on the early ice. Most ice reports from last week ranged from about 3-6 inches of ice depending on the body of water. The reports also indicated a high level of success for most that were able to get out. I was out of town for five days right at the start and missed out on last weekend's ice activity, so my information is based on others' reports.
The weather Monday through Wednesday created a few problems. Some of the larger lakes that were just getting skimmed over opened back up. Some of the small lakes and ponds not only didn't make additional ice, but also lost up to an inch. Most ended up with a wet surface that has since froze and improved the ice conditions. When we get some thaw days and the surface is wet, it doesn't mean the ice underneath is not safe. It may just create some inconveniences. We should be done with some of this yo-yo weather, and conditions are good and will only continue to improve now. The long-range forecast looks favorable for ice fishing in our area.
Snow can be the early ice enemy and it looks like we aren't going to have any significant snow for the next week to ten days. Snow insulates the ice and weights the ice down; both are conditions that slow the progress of ice development on the lake. Snow on early ice can make for an ice season of slushy conditions and poor travel conditions to areas on certain lakes. The long-range forecast without snow will be enough time for us to get the kind of ice conditions that can make for a good ice season. I hope the forecast is accurate, but we all know how much we can count on our weather forecasters!
Portable fish houses not only make life on the ice more comfortable, but also are a great way to transport ice gear to your fishing spot. For those that don't yet have a portable and are still sitting on bucket on the ice, plastic sleds or toboggans work well transporting augers, heaters, buckets, rods, bait, and other gear. I have seen the use of a rubber tote with a rope attached to get gear on the ice in early conditions. Anglers are very creative with customizing portables, permanent fish houses, ATV's and snowmobiles, and even trucks to make ice fishing easier, more comfortable, and more efficient. Your time on the ice, experience, and other experienced ice anglers ideas will help expand this growing sport.
The next six weeks are generally the peak of the bite activity and catching can be at a premium. It looks like we are setting up for a good ice season. If you got out fishing in the late fall and had some success, those spots are a great starting location to try and get on active fish during the early ice bite. If you weren't able to get out and locate fish in the late fall, it can be helpful to return to locations that you had early ice success in previous years. If you are new to the ice fishing game and have no history to work from, pick some of the weed areas off shoreline breaks and drill holes until you find the edge of the first break to deeper water. Drilling multiple holes from shallow to deep gives you the opportunity to move around to locate active fish. Weed edges (of healthy weeds) can most times be a good friend to the early season ice angler. Good luck, make good decisions, and be safe.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)